Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors

Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Chitral player in red top beats a player from the opponent side to hit a shot during the final match or Shandur Polo Festival in Chitral. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Local musicians entertaining the crowds during a cultural musical event the night before the Shandur Polo Festival final. AN, 8 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Peshawar Corps Commander Mazhar Shaheen Mehmood shaking hands with Gilgit’s captain at the prize distribution ceremony. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Peshawar Corps Commander Mazhar Shaheen Mehmood congratulating Chitral’s captain on winning Shandur Polo Festival. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Chitral team captain Shehzada Sikandar ul Mulk responding to the cheering crowd after leading his team
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Chitral fans backing their team as the match headed towards a possible draw during the final minutes. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Artists in traditional colourful dresses presenting Chitral’s cultural dance at Shandur Polo Festival. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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A view of Chitral and Gilgit polo teams engaged in a nail-biting final match at the crowded Shandur Polo ground. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) Commando making a descend at Shandur Polo ground after a successful jump from 9,000 feet. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Pakistan Army’s paratrooper about to land in the Shandur Polo ground during a fantastic display of aerobatics in para-shoot jump from 9,000 feet above Shandur. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Shandur valley comes to life as hundreds of tents are erected by visitors during the Polo Festival. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Shandur valley comes to life as hundreds of tents are erected by visitors during the Polo Festival. AN, 9 July 2019
Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
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Gilgit polo player in blue top fighting for ball with a Chitral player during the final match of Shandur Polo Festival. AN, 9 July 2019
Updated 10 July 2019

Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors

Three-day Shandur polo festival concludes with record 40,000 visitors
  • Dutch backpakers and a British polo team were among the 80 foreign tourists at the festival
  • The tournament is played at the world’s highest polo ground at 12,500 feet above sea-level

SHANDUR: The Shandur Polo trophy went to team Chitral for the fourth consecutive year after they beat arch-rivals Gilgit by 6-5 in a nail-biting final match of The Shandur Polo Festival 2019.
Played at the world’s highest polo ground at 12,500 feet above the sea-level, the final remained a close contest for most of the time as challengers Gilgit leveled Chitral’s lead midway through the second half. However, Chitral kept their nerves and scored a spectacular goal just minutes before the final whistle.
Peshawar Corps Commander Mazhar Shaheen Mehmood presented the winners' trophy to Chitral captain Shehzada Sikandar ul Mulk. Chitral’s Izhar Ali Khan was declared man of the match for his outstanding performance.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Senior Minister for Sports and Tourism Muhammad Atif Khan told Arab News that the Shandur Festival was attracting more local and foreign tourists every year. “The number has doubled since last year. The picturesque Shandur valley has the potential to attract many more tourists around the year. Our government is trying to improve the roads and provide better facilities for all tourists. Shandur festival can play a vital role in promoting tourism in Pakistan.”
More than 40,000 tourists visited the three-day festival this year, Commissioner of Malakand Riaz Khan Mehsud told Arab News.
“Polo is extremely popular in Chitral and Gilgit. Thousands of local families came to Shandur every day to back their respective teams. Around 80 foreigners from different countries also visited Shandur Festival,” Mehsud said, adding that a 13-member polo team from the United Kingdom came to Shandur to witness how the players and their horses cope with such high-altitude where breathing becomes difficult due to lack of oxygen.
Musical attractions representing the cultures of Chitral, Gilgit, and Baltistan coupled with spectacular fireworks energized the night before the final match in Shandur.
Dutch nationals Levie and Lucas traveled to Shandur with a group of their bag-packers from their country after seeing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Corporation (TCKP) advertisements on the social media. “We arrived here yesterday via Gilgit. Everyone treats us like VIPs. Everybody is so welcoming. The greenery and snow-clad mountains of Shandur and this wonderful game of polo are all amazing,” The couple expressed the joy of their first visit to Pakistan.
Amirullah Khan Yaftali has been performing the responsibilities of the tournament referee for the past 12 years. “The 50 minutes match consists of two halves. Each team consists of six players. You can not change an injured player or horse during the match”, he detailed, adding that only a special breed of horses from Badakhshan, Afghanistan can play at such high-altitude.
Lamenting the poor road conditions, Amirullah Yaftali said that promoting tourism greatly depended on better accessibility to tourists stations.”Thousands of domestic tourists from different parts of Pakistan brave the nerve-wrecking journey to reach Shandur. However, deteriorated road conditions have hampered the KP government’s efforts to promote the Polo festival and tourism as anyone visiting Shandur once wouldn’t want to return.”
Shandur is located 67 kilometers from Mastuj Town in Upper Chitral. However, the journey often takes over six painstaking hours as the unmetalled road tests the nerves and skills of drivers due to narrow passageways and sharp turns, and long delays due to traffic congestions.
Despite various challenges, the TCKP has successfully organized Shandur festival, managing to bring more colors and attracting more visitors. The corporation aims to invest more resources and efforts on the festival in an attempt of giving it international fame.